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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, Dec. 22, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 254        E-mail us    
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A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
The Museo de los Niños at dusk Thursday in San José

A sincere wish for a great holiday from us
As the snows ravage the Great Plains of the United States and heads southeast, expats in Costa Rica have to fight hard against being smug.  After all, the dry season has arrived, and the temperature hovers around 20 C. (68 F.) degrees in the Central Valley and 30 degrees (86 F.) on both coasts.

There is no white Christmas unless you count the white, sandy beaches. But there is the nine-day Christmas holiday, starting this afternoon, during which absolutely nothing official gets done.

The community of Guácima says it will host a carnival this year because the fiesta grounds in Zapote, San José, were ruled to be too prone to a possible earthquake for the show to continue there.

The Dec. 27 carnival through downtown San José is toast for want of a sponsor. But the Municipalidad de San José says it will sponsor the traditional horse parade Tuesday.
Meanwhile those lucky enough to have a condo or other accommodations for Christmas and New Year's continue to arrive by plane, auto, bus or boat.

Their white Christmas runs to a chilly chardonnay or perhaps a guaro sour. We welcome the tourists and hope they consider being expats here.

At A.M. Costa Rica we will continue keeping an eye on the news 24 hours day. We next publish Tuesday after taking a one-day Christmas break.

We wish all our friends and readers a Happy Holiday and Merry Christmas. Don't forget to watch the rip tides.

Jay Brodell
Sharon Brodell
Saray Ramírez Vindas
owners of A.M. Costa Rica


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 254 

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Taxi fares will go up
to September amount


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The up-and-down taxi fares are going up again.

The rate per kilometer will increase about 20 colons as soon as an order is published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos cut taxi fares that amount in September at the order of the Sala IV constitutional court. The regulating authority had failed to hold a required public meeting when it raised the rate the first time.

The Federación de Cooperativas de Taxi continued to petition and finally got the regulating entity to agree.

The new rate will again be 350 colons for the first kilometer in the city and 320 for each subsequent kilometer. 350 colons is about 67.5 U.S. cents. Rural rates will be slightly higher.

Lawmakers hit impasse
in electing magistrate


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The election of a new magistrate for the Sala III of the Corte Suprema de Justicia will have to wait until the new year.

After 33 rounds of voting, no candidate has been able to get the 38 votes required for appointment. The voting is in the news because Francisco Dall'Anesse, the fiscal general or chief prosecutor, is one of the candidates.

The leader is Carlos Chinchilla, a current judge who has fallen just one or two votes short of victory. He is being supported by the Partido Liberación Nacional and the other parties that make up the ruling coalition. Dall'Anesse is being backed by the 17 members of the Partido Acción Ciudadana.

Dall'Anesse finished first in the evaluation by a committee, but he has arrested and jailed former presidents for corruption investigations.

U.S. federal sweep
targets passport frauds


Special to A.M. Costa Rica

An enforcement operation by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service has led to the arrest of 19 defendants and charges being filed against six more who allegedly acquired or attempted to acquire U. S. passports with false identities.

Operation Secure Passport targeted individuals who applied for passports — sometimes successfully — through various fraudulent means. In recent weeks, 25 defendants have been charged, with most of the arrests taking place over the past two weeks. Most of the defendants are charged with making a false statement in a passport application, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.

The Diplomatic Security service gave these case histories:

Mexican citizen Salvador Mariscal-Romero was named in a criminal complaint filed in mid-November that charged him with attempting to obtain a passport in an assumed identity. Mariscal-Romero, 40, has been deported from the United States six times, and he has prior convictions for crimes that include burglary and drug possession. He is a fugitive.

Christopher Carlyle was charged Dec. 8 with obtaining a passport, which he used to flee to China while facing criminal charges in the United States. Carlyle, 35, of Joliet, Illinois, was facing fraud charges in Illinois, when he fled to Los Angeles and fraudulently obtained a passport by falsely stating that he had lost it. In fact, Carlyle had previously surrendered his passport as a condition of being released on bail in the Illinois case. Carlyle is currently in custody in Illinois awaiting trial on charges of bail jumping and fraud.

Anne Brown Hunter Flaherty was charged earlier this month with fraudulently obtaining a passport in an assumed identity while she was a fugitive facing charges of heading a prostitution ring. Flaherty, 43, of Boston, Massachusetts, was charged after attorneys for her late husband’s estate revealed to authorities that she admitted obtaining the passport to travel under an assumed identity.

Guadalupe Marquez, 30, was named in a criminal complaint that accuses her of submitting a Puerto Rican birth certificate and other false documentation to falsely claim she was a U. S. citizen when she applied for a passport.

Escazú residents face
coke smuggling allegations

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two Escazú men are facing allegations of international drug smuggling, and officials said they recruited young men to carry cocaine to Europe.

The men owned a bar in downtown San José where they would meet young men in need of cash, said agents.

Agents arrested the men, a Spaniard and a Cuban, while they drove in their cars Tuesday. Investigators raided their apartment the same day.

Agents said the investigation began in September when they got a tip. Nov. 9 agents arrested two Spanish men, 26 and 28, at Juan Santamaría airport after they were seen earlier in the company of the suspects. During that arrest soap bottles were found that contained five kilos of cocaine, agents said.

One of the suspects traveled twice a month to Spain accompanied by young men, agents said.

Immigration detainees get
Christmas dinner early

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Christmas came early this year to the 17 inmates in the immigration lockup in Hatillo.

Employees of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería and university law students participated at what is called the Centro de Aseguramiento where a Christmas dinner was served Thursday night.

Mario Zamora, director of Migración, said the idea was to share the holiday with those who came to the country illegally, mostly for economic reasons. Zamora said he hoped the event would start a tradition.

When someone is caught here as an illegal alien they are detained in the immigration facility until the deportation process is completed. Then they are returned to their home country.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 254  






When you just don’t know where you’re going
Even I have had enough discussion on what to do in Iraq.  President George Bush must be utterly full up with suggestions.  One of the comments during a discussion about the war among ambassadors and Army brass has stuck with me:  “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” 

As President Bush is exploring the various roads to success in Iraq, I wonder if that phrase has applied to my own life.  Many times I didn’t know where I was going until I was almost there.  More often than not, I have lucked out. (Or is it lucked in?) My coming to Costa Rica and the moves I have made since I’ve been here have been pretty much unplanned.

As my retirement approached, I did consider what I was going to do.  I knew that continuing to live in the United States was not financially feasible unless I moved to a small town totally off the beaten path where rents were reasonable.  I like a city.  Like most people in the U.S., I knew little about Costa Rica, but when one of my poker pals told me her uncle had moved here and was very happy, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to visit.  First I spent a month in México at Lake Chapala with a friend.  I did not feel at home there.

I made three visits to Costa Rica and on my third one, as I was walking to catch a bus in Escazu the day before I was to leave, I saw a young woman come out of a house and get into a Volkswagen.  She waved to her friend in the house and called, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”  As she said that, I felt a wave of envy wash over me.  I wanted so to be able to say, “I’ll see you again tomorrow.” Again and again.  That’s when I knew that I was moving to Costa Rica. 

Any move means an adjustment period with discomfort and disappointments as well as the joys that come with the breakthroughs.  This is especially true in another country where the language and culture are different.  I have had my share of both.  From time to time I have felt like the ugly American. 

My physical therapist, Karen, recently gave me the comforting opinion that Ticos generally like Gringos because we come here not to take but to add to the economy by buying or renting property and giving people work. She also said that as patients, we work harder, have a positive attitude and do our homework.  (I am not sure   
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

that last statement didn’t have a hidden agenda.)

Once arrived, I moved a number of times.  My last apartment I was looking at only in order to recommend it to a possible someone else, but it had picture windows and a balcony, and I decided I wanted to live there myself.  When conditions became unlivable in that apartment, my new friend Alexis said we were going looking.

After more than a dozen years in Costa Rica, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.  I know that if I returned to the States the adjustment probably would be more than I could handle.

Meanwhile Sunday at the Little Theatre’s Blanche Brown Theatre there was a benefit concert by the Costa Rican string quartet, El Ebano.  It was for the Angel of Love Foundation’s Tom and Norman Home for abandoned old people, a cause that Don Paco Havener has supported for many years. He himself just celebrated his 88th birthday.  One of the pieces Ebano played was entitled “Military March,” but violinist and spokesperson Mercedes Rodríguez said they didn’t like that title so they were not calling it that and were looking for another name.  I thought, “March of the Penguins?” but didn’t suggest it.  I also thought, how wonderfully Costa Rican.
 
There have been two big displays of fireworks in Sabana Park this past week and my bedroom balcony has a ringside seat.  I remembered that my other apartment on the hill also had a great panoramic view of the fireworks in the same location.  No military fireworks, but a celebration of the coming holidays.  Once again I have lucked out  -- on all counts -- in Costa Rica.

—————
(Jo’s book, “Butterfly in the City: A good Life in Costa Rica,” is available through 7th Street Book Store, Lehmann’s and Liberia Internacional or contact Stuart at jostuart@amcostarica.com.)


He's their
problem now

Orlando Martínez Quinto in white shift and plastic handcuffs is led to a plane for a short trip to San Andrés, the Colombian island in the Caribbean, Thursday. The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia kingpin went home to face 40 years in prison for the 2002 murders of more than 100 persons, 48 of them children in a rebel raid in northern Colombia.  He lived for years in El Cocal, Puntarenas and directed the FARC overseas infrastructure.

Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguirdad Pública photo


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 254  





Devils will be on loose again soon in community of Boruca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Boruca will welcome the new year with their traditional Juego de los Diablitos or dance of the devils.

The event, a long-running tradition, begins Dec. 30 and goes until Jan. 2.

For the casual tourist the event is a chance to see the Boruca use the carved masks for which they are famous. But there are many levels in this three-day encounter of the devils with a bull.

Both the devils and bull die at certain points in the event, certain of resurrection. Some say this is making a statement that the Boruca never die, even when faced with the threat to their lives and culture that the European invasion brought.

Certainly this is a confrontation between opposing forces, the ying and yang, good and evil, white and black, terrestrial and supernatural.

The encounter has its roots in pre-Columbian times and in various cultures related to Indians of southwest Costa Rica.

The community of Boruca is on a gravel road south of Rey Curé between kilometers 231 and 232 of the  Interamericana Sur. The public is invited for the event, which is a major tourist attraction.

The community of Rey Curré has a similar Boruca ceremony at a different time of the year.
The event begins this year with a chicha drinking party Saturday, Dec. 30 directed by the Diablo Mayor. The lesser devils are born by midnight. With the sun the bull appears and between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. the following day, a Sunday, the devils fight with the bull. Modern thinking is that the bull now represents the Spanish invaders and the devils are representative of the Boruca culture.

The devils generally wear masks that they have made themselves.

That night there is a big dance in Boruca with Discomóvil.

The following day, New Year's Day, the battle continues from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. between the bull and the devils. The symbolic battle is more choreography than confrontation.

At 8 p.m. the Discomóvil cranks up and the national group Kalúa is joined by SIMBA de México.

Tuesday, Jan. 2, the battle continues and the bull kills the devils and they are placed in their tomb. The last to fall is the Diablo Mayor, considered the chief.


The devils, however, return to life at the call of the Diablo Major, and seek the fleeing bull in the woods. The bull is found and then killed and a big celebration ensues. Celebrants drink chicha representing the bull's blood, and there is a barbecue where the bull is supposedly cooked.

The invitation to the public is from the Centro para el Desarrollo Indígena.


U.S. upset by Morales decision to raise limits on coca cultivation in Bolivia
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. ambassador to Bolivia has criticized President Evo Morales's plan to raise the legal limit for growing coca leaves.

Ambassador Philip Goldberg told reporters that surplus coca will always end up being used for cocaine, because drug traffickers can pay more than legal industries. He spoke Wednesday after meeting with Bolivia's foreign
minister, David Choquehuanca, to renew an agreement on fighting illegal drugs.

The new agreement cuts U.S. anti-drug assistance to Bolivia by 25 percent, for a total of $34 million.

Morales announced Monday that his country will raise the legal limit for coca-growing from 12,000 hectares to 20,000 hectares. Bolivian law restricts how much land can be used to farm coca for herbal teas and other legal uses.


Raul Castro talks about process of transition as Cuba' parliament plans to meet
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Acting Cuban President Raul Castro says his ailing brother Fidel is "irreplaceable" — unless he is replaced by the entire Cuban Communist Party.

Raul Castro spoke Wednesday at a meeting of the University Student Federation in Havana. He told the students that he never planned to copy his brother when he assumed leadership in July. He also said the Cuban revolutionary generation has a duty to pass the leadership on to a younger generation, whether it wants to or not.
Today Cuba's parliament meets. It will be only the second meeting of the Cuban parliament in 30 years without Fidel Castro's attendance.

Fidel Castro made his brother acting president in late July while recovering from intestinal surgery. Details of his health are closely guarded. Raul Castro did not comment on Fidel's health during his remarks.

The director of U.S. national intelligence, John Negroponte, has said Castro is very ill and could die within months rather than years.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Dec. 22, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 254



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